“A Common Ground Where None Exists”

by hellorousseau

When I was younger, I never realized that the people in the store you’re shopping at could be passing judgement on how you look/act/are, even though they seem professional, smiley, and helpful.

Although this is how I feel about retail from time to time.

The shopgirl in the cute little boutique may tell her friend later about ‘the funniest client with the worst eyebrows’. The cashier at your local Superstore may lean in to the till next to him, pointing out the obvious tag hanging off of your pants. The teenager who pumped your gas may leave the transaction and imitate your double chin, giving you a goofy voice while talking to his parents about his day.

Though institutions make a point to be professional, presenting a shining beacon of customer service and unfathomable nice-ness, behind that curtain, is human nature.

And unfortunately, human nature isn’t perfect.

While reading the fourth chapter of Homicide, one passage in particular sticks out. Starting on page 201, Simon begins a blow-by-blow, behind the scenes picture of the true nature of an interrogation, starting with being brought in, to how to get someone to talk (willingly) without a lawyer.

“The detective offers a cigarette, not your brand, and begins an uninterrupted monologue that wanders back and fourth for a half hour more, eventually coming to rest in a familiar place: ‘You have the absolute right to remain silent.’” (201)

Simon writes this part of the chapter so the reader feels like they’ve been arrested, brought downtown, and set up in an interrogation room:

“At least once in your miserable life, you spent an hour in front of a television set, listening to this book-’em-Danno routine.

You think Joe Friday was lying to you? You think Kojak was making this hose-shit up?

No way, bunk, we’re talking about sacred freedoms here, notably your Fifth Fucking Amendment protection against self-incrimination, and hey, it was good enough for Ollie North, so who are you to go incriminating yourself at the first opportunity?” (202)

Though this perspective is interesting to read, the really eye-opening part of the chapter comes from behind-the-scenes actualities from the homicide detectives, and how the system stretches to work.

I have always pictured the law, and the process of being detained and arrested, as a shining example of a well-oiled, problem-free system. I never imagined, until reading this chapter, that detectives are people too, manipulating and twisting to do their job successfully within the boundaries of the legal system.

“That is the lie, and when the roles are perfectly performed, deceit surpasses itself, becoming manipulation on a grand scale and ultimately an act of betrayal.

Because what occurs in an interrogation room is indeed little more than a carefully staged drama, a choreographed performance that allowed a detective and his suspect to find a common ground where none exists.” (206)

People aren’t always as they seem, be it at the mall, a restaurant, or an interrogation room. The facade that has been constructed around a system with cracks- with wiggle room- is only visible from certain angles.

If you’ve never worked retail, you may not suspect that staff-members at a store are giggling about your untamed bed-head.

If you’ve never worked as a server, you may not wonder if the staff in the back are taunting you after you sent your salmon back for being too dry.

If you’ve never worked in homicide, you may not wonder if the detective is playing you like a cheap harp, pretending to be on your side as your confession slides off your tongue.